FCC Approves Altice's Purchase of Cablevision

Concludes no adverse competitive effects

The FCC has approved Altice's $17.7 billion purchase of Cablevision.

The approval came with no fanfare, and no commissioner vote, instead approved on delegated authority by the Wireline Bureau.

"We find that approval of the applications will serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity and hereby grant the applications..." subject to conditions.

Altice is based in the Netherlands, so the conditions are related to national security.

In December, Altice closed its $9.1-billion buy of a majority stake in Suddenlink, three days after receiving FCC consent.

"We find the transaction is unlikely to have adverse competitive effects," said the FCC, about Cablevision-related interconnection issues. On the other end, the FCC said: "We find that the transaction is likely to result in some public interest benefits of increased broadband speeds and more affordable options for low income consumers in Cablevision’s service territory."

The FCC was not exactly exalting the deal. "Although we find that the public interest benefits are limited, the scales tilt in favor of granting the Applications because of the absence of harms."

The FCC is imposing no conditions, and it is a relatively small market size, which factored into the decision to grant it on delegated authority rather than require a commission-level decision.

The Communications Workers of America opposed the Cablevision sale to Altice, saying the transaction would be paid for with job cuts, but the FCC said that was "speculative. We therefore do not find on this record that there is a public interest harm associated with a loss of employment."

Zoom Telephonics had some issues with cable modem fees, but the FCC said that while Zoom had presented the commission with arguments concerning Cablevision’s cable modem billing policies and the impact it believes such policies could have on the competitive retail market, "we find that these issues are more appropriately addressed in the pending industry-wide rulemaking proceeding on navigation devices and, thus, need not be resolved here."

Zoom pushed for a modem-related condition in the pending Charter-Time Warner Cable merger, but the FCC reportedly is not including the condition in that deal for the same reason.

The Altice decision came on day 180 of the FCC's 180-day informal shot clock on vetting the deal.

Altice is a publicly traded company providing voice, video, and broadband to approximately 34.5 million subs in France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Portugal, Switzerland, Israel, the French Caribbean and Indian Ocean regions, and the Dominican Republic.

Cablevision's offers digital TV, Internet, and VoIP service to about 3.1 million subscribers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Cablevision also has a a million Wi-Fi hot spots across its footprint. Cablevision Lightpath offers competitive business service in the New York metro area and owns Cablevision Media Sales.

The deal is still being vetted by the state of New York, so it can't close just yet.

The New York State Public Service Commission has extended its deadline for a final decision on the deal until May 20. The FCC pointed out in its order that the NY PSC was still looking at it.